Aston Villa defender Joleon Lescott hails returning Jores Okore, despite threat to his starting chances

The 23-year-old Dane has been out of first-team action since undergoing knee surgery in the summer, but he is now back to full fitness and set to add more competition at centre-back.

Aston Villa defender Joleon Lescott has backed fellow centre-back Jores Okore to push for a starting spot as he nears his first-team comeback following a six-month injury absence.

Okore, 23, has not played a senior game for Villa since May’s 4-0 FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal, having undergone a knee operation in the summer after battling through the pain barrier during last season’s run-in.

However, the Denmark international is now back in full training and has made a handful of starts for the club’s Under-21 side since late September, while also appearing as an unused substitute in last month’s 2-1 Capital One Cup fourth-round defeat at Southampton.

There is even a chance he could play some part in Saturday’s home clash with Watford, and Lescott believes his imminent return will give the whole team a big boost given how he performed last term.

Speaking to Villa’s official website, the former West Bromwich Albion man said: “Before the injuries, Jores was doing exceptionally well. We all know how good Jores is and the attributes he has. He is a good player.

“Seeing him returning offers that healthy competition which can only bode well for the club this season and beyond.”

 Premier League SeasonTotal Tackles MINSTackle AccuracyTotal Clearances MINSHeaders Won MINSHeader SuccessInterceptions MINSPassing AccuracyBall Recoveries MINSAppearancesMins Played
Jores Okore 2014-2015 39.39 75% 13.48 41.85 56.47% 30.91 86% 15.94 23 2,009
Micah Richards 2015-2016 51.43 71% 13.17 37.24 67.44% 32.73 86% 18.62 12 1,080
Ciaran Clark 2015-2016 70 67% 10.5 25.2 71.43% 35 76% 25.2 7 630
Joleon Lescott 2015-2016 76.5 90% 14.71 45 77.27% 33.26 79% 17.39 9 765

Okore’s return may not be good news for Lescott, however, as it will only make it harder for him to win back his place in the line-up under new manager Remi Garde.

The 33-year-old boyhood Villa fan signed from Midlands rivals West Brom on deadline day for a reported £1 million fee, rising to £2 million with add-ons, and slotted straight into Tim Sherwood’s side over Ciaran Clark.

However, he failed to replicate his Baggies form in his first eight starts for the claret and blues amid their worst-ever start to a top-flight campaign, as his poor performances led fans to call for Clark to be restored as skipper Micah Richards’ centre-back partner.

They have since got their wish in Garde’s first two games in charge against Manchester City and Everton, respectively, as Lescott has been an unused substitute in both matches, and he could even slip further down the pecking order over the coming weeks with Okore back and Liverpool loanee Tiago Ilori also close to shaking off a groin strain.

Nevertheless, while the Birmingham-born stopper is determined to get back into the starting XI, he believes that the experience he can offer in the dressing room in the meantime can be just as important to the squad.

“[Starting games] is the aim of every player - and I'm no different, “he added. “On the whole, though, it is not about who is playing. Yes, we all want to go out there in every game, but the club need to pick up points and get the results - that's the only thing that is important in football.

“That is the aim of every player here - whether they are in the team or not. I always aim to be a positive influence in the dressing room - offering advice to the lads. If I can help in any way to keep this club in the Premier League, I will happily do it.”

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